Pictal Health
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Pictal Health

Annual Report: Year 2 of Pictal Health

Last year I put together an annual report of progress and pains related to starting a company. Now, a year later, what’s changed? (Apart from the global pandemic that has upended life as we knew it.)

Accomplishments

  • I’m now working with my 54th health history visualization client; I’ve had 32 paying clients, and 22 pro bono clients. That adds up to at least 550 hours of direct client work, probably more. I’ve learned a ton in that time, and I try to share insights continually here on Medium.
  • Last summer I worked with 10 veterans with complex health issues as part of a pilot project with the VA. It was a lower-technology process, and I loved getting know the veterans. I wrote this article up to summarize my experience: How visual health histories can help military veterans
  • Pictal Health was technically profitable in 2019. The numbers were small, but hey, it’s something!
  • I went through the painfully detailed process of applying for an SBIR grant through the NIH — this is a government grant for small businesses. I’m currently awaiting a decision.
  • During this pandemic, I’ve been taking time to get into detailed design and prototyping for Pictal App — a way for people to compile their own health history timelines.
  • I worked with Ron Herman at TeamFound to compile requirements and documentation for Pictal App and interview many potential development firms around the world.
  • Anne Miller helped me compile a giant ‘pro forma’ financial projections spreadsheet. It helped me think more critically about business models, the resources I would need to grow, and what kind of company Pictal Health might become.

Challenges

  • Working alone continues to be one of my biggest challenges. Here is what I wrote last year: “In the past, I’ve felt most alive and happy when I am collaborating with a good team and doing work at which I excel. Being isolated from other people and from the work of being a designer has been my biggest personal challenge and has resulted in extreme emotional lows at certain points.” I’ve had some helpful collaborations along the way, but it’s no replacement for working with a team. And, since I get a lot of energy and motivation from working with others, I find my energy flagging in isolation.
  • Business model: finding the right business model is an utter slog, especially in healthcare, where the people who pay for a product are often not the ones who enjoy its benefits.
  • Burnout: Especially in the last year, I’ve found myself burned out on aspects of this work, and at times I’ve needed to take a step back and focus on something else for a few days or weeks. It happens. I try to give myself the distance and then come back to the work with new energy.
  • Le finances: it’s been a personal struggle to continue having low income and relying so much on my husband to cover our basic costs of living. I also need money to build and launch Pictal App; I may try to raise money, once I find out about the grant. In the meantime, I’m looking for interesting side work as a user experience designer.

A few needs

  • Team: to be successful, I need to stop working alone. I’m starting to look around for folks with complementary skills who might be cofounders or early employees. Skills and attributes I am looking for: marketing, sales, good listening, business strategy, partnerships, integrity, hiring and management, healthcare strategy; also a separate person who has more of a technical background and can help build and guide the product.
  • Evidence: I applied for Mass Challenge a few months ago and was not accepted, and the most common feedback I got was that I needed to gather more evidence about the impact Pictal Health was having and its usefulness to doctors. I am involved with two (possibly three) papers being submitted to academic journals that will help establish health history visualization as a valuable practice. In the future, I’d need to do a more formal clinical study to measure specific outcomes of this work.
  • Energy: I can’t understate the importance of finding a source of ongoing energy. Working with clients often gives me energy and purpose, so I might try to find ways to work with more of them. Creative pursuits, mentorship, and social connection also give me energy, so I will find ways to keep up with those things.

I am grateful for:

  • My husband, who has supported us the last two years financially (and who is a huge emotional support for me)
  • My family and close friends, thus far all safe and healthy
  • My clients, who have taught me so much
  • Collaborators: this year, notably Ron Herman (technology) and Anne Miller (tech commercialization and spreadsheeting)
  • All the great people who have donated time and advice to me in the last year or two, notably Geoff Strawbridge (Marketing), Sam Roach-Gerber and David Bradbury at VCET, Gwen Pokalo at Center for Women and Enterprise, Bonnie Pratt and the women of the CWE Trust.IT group, Sameer Sood, lots of advisors and mentors through the LaunchVT program, and all of the rest of you out there, you know who you are
  • My monthly infusions of immunoglobulin, which keep me strong
  • Living in Vermont and being able to get outside & eat local food during the pandemic
  • Dark chocolate, still available during these lean times

One more thing

Black lives matter, and I and Pictal Health stand with the brave protesters in our country and around the world who are fighting for racial justice and speaking out against racism, police brutality, and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. I wrote a post over at the Pictal Health website about more actions I’m taking, if you’re interested.

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Katie McCurdy

Katie McCurdy

Designer and researcher focusing on healthcare; founder of Pictal Health; autoimmune patient; chocolate-eater. katiemccurdy.com and pictalhealth.com